Quick Guide: Nebraska: Listening and Learning

Episode 5 of Season 2 of our podcast series, State AG Pulse, is an honest and forthright conversation between Lori Kalani, Meghan Stoppel and new Nebraska AG Mike Hilgers. General Hilgers outlines the much thought-through philosophy that underpins his personal and professional life. He is a very strong conservative, committed to listening to and learning from his constituents, staff and colleagues in the AG world on both sides of the aisle. He talks about his appreciation for the culture established by former AG Peterson, and his desire to maintain and build on it, bringing in new talent as appropriate.  

(1:10) Lori introduces General Hilgers, recently elected AG for Nebraska.

(3:36) AG Hilgers talks about his background and how his experience as a legislator serving in Nebraska’s unicameral legislature for six years, and for the last two years as Speaker, shaped his approach to public service. He also describes starting his law firm in his North Lincoln basement and growing it, through grit and determination, into a firm of over 150 people nationwide. These experiences shaped his thinking on how to build culture, treat people, and compete effectively in the marketplace.

(6:48) Meghan reiterates the nonpartisan nature of the work done in the Nebraska unicameral, and asks General Hilgers about the way he looks at bipartisanship in the AG’s office.

(7:52) Hilgers explains his political philosophy of strong conservatism, tempered with pragmatism and grounded in the knowledge that in order to collaborate and reach agreement, compromise is necessary.

(11:07) General Hilgers goes on to say that what he learnt as speaker was that by approaching people in a fair and transparent way, and giving them an opportunity to be heard, one is able to build really strong collegial relationships, even with opposing counsel.

(12:46) Meghan acknowledges that she encountered surprise from her colleagues in the state AG world when she joined Cozen O’Connor that she could represent the very companies that were being investigated by state AGs. The key to successfully representing clients is ensuring that the business community maintains credibility with the AG offices.

(14:21) Lori weighs in with the observation that General Hilgers has maintained a high degree of operational continuity since taking office.

(15:22) General Hilgers puts this down to his predecessor, General Peterson’s leadership and the great team he built. Continuity and a smooth transition is very important to AG Hilgers and he believes it is also important for opposing counsel.

(17:02) General Hilgers introduces his new solicitor general, Eric Hamilton, a sixth generation Nebraskan with federal experience from his time in the Trump White House.

(18:29) Lori asks the General about whether he sees opportunities to work with colleagues in other states who are not Republicans.

(19:51) AG Hilgers confirms that he plans to do that, and that he sees a great deal of value in cross-party relationships.

(21:42) Meghan digs a little deeper on issues General Hilgers may have already identified that he would like Nebraska to be a leader on when it comes to collaborating with other states.

(22:47) General Hilgers dispels the idea of preconceived notions about what’s important to other states. He plans to take his time to understand the people and the rhythms in the AG’s office but confirms that his top priorities for Nebraska revolve around agriculture and natural resources. He notes that he plans to get involved in multistates by being a good team player.

(25:45) Lori asks what business leaders can do to get to know General Hilgers, and help him to understand their business in Nebraska.

(26:14) General Hilgers responds that he regards listening as a vital part of his job, and that he plans to have an open door and do his best to learn about businesses operating in Nebraska and meet the people involved. He goes on to stress the importance of unified communication and ensuring he and his staff speak with one voice.

(27:47) AG Hilgers recommends the Tin Roof Sundae in Potter, Nebraska and invites anyone who’d like to meet with him to come to Potter!

To listen to the full podcast, click here. To listen to a particular section, open the recording and use the time stamps provided above to navigate to the desired part.